Fall break was two weeks long, so we smooshed a lot into that thing! One thing I haven’t mentioned yet that I loved was the Restore Conference. It was the best conference to facilitate belonging.

This is a conference some friends attended and loved last year, and I felt drawn to it. So to be honest, I kind of based our timing of fall break around this thing so we could go this year.

I think this is something many blog readers will be interested in since there are so many church-related questions on this blog. I do love them. Even the tough ones. Because with questions comes delving deeper. I don’t have all the answers. I have. so much to learn. But I love immersing myself in questions and pondering about the depths of God’s goodness. And His love.

It turned out that not only did I get to have Dave come with me, but it turned into an MFME gathering. Which was really helpful because I thirsted for deep-dive discussions about so many of these things.

Faith Matters Podcast

I love the Faith Matters podcast. So many episodes have spoken to me over the years. These ones are perhaps the tops:

Oh there are so many more that I love. I realize I’m a little biased with that last one, because it’s my Dad being interviewed. But man alive, it’s so good. Especially starting after minute twenty or so.

Anyway, I love that there is so much willingness to dive into questions, faith, the “why’s” amidst all that we do to develop our relationship with God.

The Restore Conference

Faith Matters: a conference to create belonging

So this “best conference to facilitate belonging” as I like to call it, was filled up with many of the interviewees from the podcast as well as a slew of people who made me think. It was filled up with so much goodness.

I loved sharing it with Dave.

Shawni and David at the conference

And also with my mom and sisters.

Shawni with her mom and sisters at a conference to create belonging.

…and some friends too.

I’m going to talk more about the MFME portion and our discussions, plus the eclipse (that happened right in the middle of it all), tomorrow.

For today, I’m just going to share some of my favorite thoughts from the speakers:

Questions help us grow

  • “Be patient for all which is unanswered in your heart.” –Thomas McConkie
  • Jared Halverson talked about the importance of making space for questions. Oh it was powerful.

Seek to Understand others and embrace differences

  • The importance of community and “the bonds of association.” I love how Spencer Cox, who is the governor of Utah, quoted Alexis Tocqueville” (one of my favorites I studied back at Boston University years ago). “If men are to remain civilized or become so, the art of association must become so.”
  • Alexis Tocqueville, when studying early American culture, was fascinated with religious association. He talked about how when religious culture goes away, associations get taken over by anger and pride. I feel like this is happening so much in our society!
  • “We need to disagree better.” Disagreeing is important. We just need to figure out how to better resolve.
  • As followers of Jesus, we must stand up and create collaboration and goodness. BUILD BRIDGES OF UNDERSTANDING.
  • The problem isn’t that our political parties are so different, it’s what each other thinks the other believes is the danger. “The Perception Gap.”
  • We need to stop telling our kids to go out and change the world. We need to go out and change our own communities.
  • SPEND TIME with people who are different from you. Learn from them.

Transactional relationships vs. unconditional love

  • I loved Steve Young’s thoughts he shared about the Law of Love. He has written a book about this and I am excited to read it. He talked about Moses’ two trips up the mountain. The first was “transactional.” The second was to really build real relationships with love. Both are important. At some point we need to leave transactional relationships and use that power to “become” love.
  • I love that Adam Miller shared that love requires our participation, not our perfection.
  • I love that Fiona Givons talked about how our very most important covenant is to “feed His sheep.” Strengthen the feeble knees, comfort those in need of comfort. This is how we build Zion.
The Law oF love written on a slide

Developing faith as we learn and grow

  • I love that Rosalynde Welch talked about how our growth comes from light, life and love and compared it all to a garden and the cycle of fruitfulness.
  • Jody Moore talked about how negative emotion is part of a natural healthy human response. We just need to learn to process the negative emotions in a positive, building way.
  • Jesus came to transform our idea of justice.
  • Tom Christofferson talked about “how” church over “why” church. Church is more about how we see and seek Christ than how we are welcomed.

Different faiths represented with so much to offer

  • I love that Lisa Miller spoke, a professor at the Columbia Mind and Body Institute. She talked about, from a different spiritual background (not LDS), how spirituality is inate, and all of our relationships shape our spiritual core.
  • I love that Ms. Miller said “when we strengthen the “spiritual core” we create an immunity to so many problems.” How do we build this spiritual core in ourselves? How do we help our children build a spiritual core?
  • There was a beautiful prayer offered by Marian Edmonds-Allen.
  • Rabbi Samuel Spector talked, right in the wake of all that is happening in Israel, about how we are partners to God in ongoing brotherhood in our communities.
  • Daryl Davis talked about his experience befriending members of the KKK as a black man, and what he gained from reaching out to people so different from himself. He also performed for us which was fabulous.

Building Community

  • Patrick Mason talked about how church gives us community. Jesus came into community. He preached, performed miracles, went to dinner in communities.
  • When we hear someone say something that we don’t like, or someone who differs from what we think, we need to get curious. With love.
  • Jennifer Finlayson Fife talked about “eros” and the light of Christ. She talked about how eros, the word that is also the name of the Greek God of romantic love is representative of the kind of energy that pulls us outside of ourselves. When we fall in love, we develop that energy that encourages love and compassion. She talked about liminality and how Thomas Moore, a Catholic Theologian explained this as love that pulls us outside of ego into transcendence. When we are secure in our anchor with God, and know that we matter, we can so much better reach out and build and love others.

The Mysteries of the Universe and the beauty of nature

  • George Handley talked about the difference between possessing land and being possessed by it. This spoke to me because often I feel as if I am possessed by the mysteries and beauty of the earth. He talked about how the earth holds God’s healing power.
  • The earth and nature can absorb grief. I so agree with this! The atoning and healing powers of the earth are available to all of us.
  • Peter Enns talked about two trillion galaxies that we are now aware of, and where God is in all of this. Psalms 19: “The Heavens declare the glory of God…”
  • “Because God is so much bitter than we know, it stirs both curiosity and humility.” Oh this talk spoke to my heart.

Music that moves us

There was some great music right along with those words. I love the Brandon Flowers (from The Killers) sang…

Brandon Flowers performing at a conference to create belonging

As well as the Utah MCO choir (that my cute nephews and niece are in).

I loved that there was gospel soul music added in too, I wish I had pictures, or even better, recordings of that!

And art. We got to reunite with our long-lost artist friend, Rose Datoc Dall (and her artist daughter) from our Virginia Days:

Just so much goodness in one spot.

Obviously I could go on and on about this conference to create belonging. Every single talk gave me so much think about. Things to carry around in my heart. Please let me know if you want to talk about any of these ideas more in depth, I’m your girl! It was kind of like a firehose of information so I want any opportunity to debrief. So grateful for the opportunity to talk deep with Dave, my mom and sisters. All about that coming tomorrow.

It is part of human nature to feel like we matter. We matter when we belong. And we ALL belong.

For now, I’ll just say I believe God is bigger than we can comprehend. And I believe that Love is the answer to most things in life. May we rejoice in our differences, try to learn where others are coming from, and lean into our faith as we wrestle to understand some of life’s biggest mysteries.

God is good.

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  1. What a fantastic brief summary of all that we experienced together. I’m not speaking for all 3500 who were there (although I think almost everyone felt it), but I felt that It was a weekend that moved us, not only in the moment but also for the future. We all need to change and do better! This provided great inspiration to do that! It was pure joy to experience this with so many people we love! In fact love seemed to saturate everything from art to music to words to precious relationships. It was a powerful experience to behold!

  2. Oh Shawni, this post and the one for October 23rd, also about the conference, made the tears start for me. But I have to explain that I cried because I always feel like there is hope for me when I read things that you write about Jesus and what you learn and believe in your spiritual life. I’ve mentioned to you in the past about my desire to have something to truly believe in, that I can turn to and count on. What I need and want so very badly is faith. I search for it, I try and feel it, I pray for it, but I must be doing it wrong because I am still so lost. It made me cry when you spoke about our communities and what we are doing for them. And it hurts my heart because I know that where I live right now is a horrible community of crime, drugs, awful people, and just plain negative energy. Trying to be a part of my community isn’t safe and until the day comes when I can move from here, I don’t feel very good about trying to do anything in my community. And I know that I’m letting God down by making this choice, which might be the reason I’m not getting answers or the peace or joy or faith that I so badly want. I’m kind of getting the feeling that God looks at his clipboard to see what I’m up to and what is in my heart, and he’s shaking his head and saying “Nope. Not her. She just doesn’t get it. We can’t let her in until she learns to let go and truly understand things. She’s got to have faith.” I hope I find it. I get close and then something happens to mess it all up. Like another death in my family, or more bad news about a family members health, or all the bad stuff that happens all around me every day. How does one get past those things? You turn to your faith, right? See my dilemma? Anyway, thank you for the inspiring posts. They gave me a lot to think about.I sure appreciate your writing.

    1. Oh Laura, I’m so sorry for the pain and struggling you are going through. I love that you are searching for faith in the midst of it all though. I believe that is so much of the battle. I have been reading the New Testament trying to keep up with our Come Follow Me program at church this year. I have been amazed over and over again by Paul. He is in dire situations over and over again, but he keeps putting his faith in God. Even when it seems like the world is against him. And I wonder how that happens? How can you find faith and light and goodness in horrible circumstances? How is he writing these joyful epistles from prison? I also think of Corrie Ten Boom from The Hiding Place. Have you read it? I love her strength beyond what I feel is even human capacity in the midst of German labor camps. I love that she says, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” and “I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do.” As I have pondered how people like these can keep going against impossible obstacles, I think what is important is that they keep going. They keep trying. They don’t give up.

      I don’t believe God has the clipboard you are talking about. I believe He’s right by your side, always. We have to learn to let HIm in, and be patient with the process.

      I cannot pretend to know the experiences you’re going through. I know every person has burdens, both secret and apparent, that are so heavy and difficult to bear. But I do believe that as we keep turning to God, over and over again, that we will find Him. I am praying for you as you keep looking. Even in a difficult community, keep shining your own light any way you can. You have power beyond what you know. I hope you can feel God’s love along the way.

      1. Thank you so much Shawni. You really have given me a big lift with your encouragement and kind words. You make me want to keep trying, and keep seeking. I won’t give up. And I really appreciate that you’re praying for me. Somehow, I’m going to find the patience to build my strength and truly find my faith! Because I know it’s here somewhere!!
        Thank you again!!
        Laura M.

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